02.08.2007 - 17.08.2007
From the instant they spot our bright red VW rental pull off the main road onto the rocky path that leads to the thorn-infested yard, the children begin to wave their arms and run toward us full-throttle. Getting out of the car requires great concentration, so as not to knock anyone from the mob of excited children in the head while opening the door, or smash tiny fingers while shutting it. We are warmly greeted every morning with about 50 wide smiles at the Mbutu carepoint in southeastern Swaziland.
At about 9 AM, the children come everyday to be fed a meal of rice and beans; for some, this is the only food they will eat the whole day. Children as young as two-years-old walk many miles, some carry baby siblings on their backs secured by filthy, threadbare blankets. Almost all feet are bare and full of sores acquired from years of unprotected walking and playing. The play area is nothing more than a never-ending stretch of incredibly dirty dirt—the kind that mothers in America abhor because not even a washing machine is able to remove it from clothes. But dirt is a constant part of life here. It infiltrates ever part of your being as it is whipped around in small cyclones by the relentless wind. The children barely flinch as it blows into their eyes; meanwhile we are brought to tears from a combination of dust in our eyes and the emotions that are welling up inside of us.
Because of the lack of availability of diapers, small babies do not wear any clothes on their bottom halves; bare bottoms are about as common as bare feet. There is hardly an improvement in the clothing situation of the older children: clothes are torn, filthy, smelly, and many times urine soaked. But that doesn’t stop us from loving on these kids; I’m not sure anything could stop us. Although we are unable to communicate through a common language, constant hugs, smiles, and high-fives speak volumes. When we teach them new songs in English, they repeat every word we say, usually on the first attempt. Their eyes light up as they eagerly devour each new verse they learn. Several days ago, we taught them the phrase “God’s love provides,” in English, accompanied by hand motions. When we arrived this morning, several of the little girls came up to us and told us, “God’s love provides.” They don’t understand any English, but they remembered that phrase. These are brilliant children.
While it brings my heart joy to know that these kids are just as smart as children in America, it hurts to know they don’t currently have access to any education. The government does not subsidize education, so families have to pay to send their children to school; ergo, most children in rural areas do not attend. But these amazing children have hope. God is answering the prayers of Swaziland (that’s what He does, you know).